SWEETWATER COUNTY — Rock Springs resident Brian Jackson, 50, pleaded no contest to a felony charge of theft Monday afternoon in Third District Court and received three years of supervised probation.
Jackson, who previously pleaded not guilty, appeared in the Third District Court of Judge Suzannah Robinson for a change of plea (COP) hearing in the case of a felony charge of theft and a felony conspiracy to commit theft charge. As per a plea agreement, Jackson pleaded no contest for both charges, the conspiracy charge was dismissed, and a 3-5 prison sentence was additionally dismissed in favor of three years of supervised probation, with two days credit for time already served.
Additionally, Jackson is required to pay $6,507.54 in restitution fees, related to the theft charge, along with $200 to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, and other court-related fees.
The charges stem from multiple incidents occurring over a three-month period earlier this year in which Jackson was charged with stealing over $6,000 in merchandise from Walmart. Jackson allegedly acted with co-defendant Roselyn Chavez, who is scheduled to go to trial later this week. Chavez pleaded not guilty on May 18. The charges in this case are each punishable by not more than 10 years per count, and/or a fee of not more than $10,000 per count.
Jackson’s attorney Eric Phillips said that Jackson is entering a no contest plea to avoid a trial which is time consuming and costly, to protect Jackson against some civil suits that that could possibly occur in the future with Walmart, and to protect Jackson’s privacy in the event of media coverage and public scrutiny. Phillips explained that a no contest plea means Jackson is neither confirming or denying the factual basis of the crime, but he is still accepting the conviction and punishment.
The COP was originally scheduled to take place Thursday, August 24, however Phillips instead filed a motion to continue due to the co-defendant, Chavez, of this case being scheduled to go to bench trial Wednesday of this week. Chavez who is accused of the same crimes as Jackson, will have a two-day bench trial Wednesday and Thursday, and Phillips expressed concern during the pretrial conference on Thursday with “sabotaging” this case if his client changed his plea before the trial could take place.
“My client doesn’t want to do anything that’s going to sabotage his significant other and his business partner in that upcoming trial, and that’s exactly what would happen today with a change of plea,” Phillips said on Thursday.
Additionally, Phillips said that there was concern that by entering the plea, Jackson would be “self-incriminating” himself, as he may be taking the stand as a defense witness and may be cross-examined by the prosecution attorney. Judge Robinson said at that time that plea agreements are binding, and Jackson would therefore not be able to incriminate himself.
Judge Robinson said today, however, that she does not know whether a no contest plea will protect Jackson from having to testify against Chavez or not, as she has not been able to research it yet.
“I’m not giving you any advice related to that… it’s possible you’re not required to testify against the co-defendant, it’s possible that you are,” she said.
She added that Jackson may be called to testify in favor of Chavez, and that the state will not be able to do anything about that.
A Fair Plea Agreement
Phillips said that the plea agreement is “very fair” given that Jackson is a charitable member of his community and he does not have a serious criminal background. He added that Jackson is not “getting off easy” with this plea agreement, as Jackson will still have to face the difficulties of a felony conviction.
According to Phillips, Jackson has spent a lot of money in the past to provide Thanksgiving meals to people throughout the community, and helped deliver the meals to homes. Additionally, Phillips said that proceeds from Jackson’s food truck have been donated to several causes throughout the community, and that Jackson adopts a family for Christmas every year, and donates to the humane society, among other charitable deeds.
“He’s a kind individual who likes to give back,” Phillips said. “These charges are not who he is.”
Robinson said that though the amount stolen in this case “could be less,” she’s “seen a lot more”.
“It’s obviously a crime to steal, but I do think there are certain thefts that are more culpable and more serious and need sentences that are more severe than others,” Robinson said. She said that probation is warranted in this case.
Jackson said that he is “embarrassed” and felt apologetic for his actions.
“I just want to make it right,” he said.